Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Luis Vaez de Torres (?–?)

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Luis Vaez de Torres (flourished 1605-1607), navigator, was a Spanish subject, but nothing is known of his birth or early life. He must have been an experienced navigator when in 1605 he was given command of the San Pedrico, 40 tons, the second in size of three vessels with which Pedro Fernandez de Quiros set out from Callao, Peru, on 21 December in search of the supposed southern continent. Quiros placed great reliance on Torres, and when they reached an island usually sent him ashore in command of the landing party. Torres protested when, in mid-Pacific, Quiros altered course from WSW., which might have taken them to south-eastern Australia, to WNW., which did take them to Espiritu Santo (New Hebrides) on 1 May 1606. Torres took a party ashore, but by his 'indiscreet presumption', got involved in a fracas in which several natives were killed. Appointed camp master he had a stockade built, but before the end of the month Quiros decided to abandon Espiritu Santo and sail onward. In bad weather Quiros was driven out of the bay, and when Torres failed to find him, he opened his sealed orders, which ordained that Quiros's second-in-command, Don Diego de Prado, was to take command, and that he was to search for land as far as 20°S. but, if none was found, to sail to Manila. Prado seems to have allowed Torres to exert actual command, and Torres wrote that he was determined to carry out the viceroy's orders 'although contrary to the inclinations of many, I may say of the greatest part, but my temper was different from that of Captain Ferdinand de Quiros'. In company with the small Los Tres Reyes Margos, the third vessel, he went south to 21°, found no land (he was then west of New Caledonia and about 300 miles (493 km) from the coast of Australia) and, failing to reach the east coast of New Guinea, coasted closely along its south side, and sailed through Torres Strait, thus discovering that New Guinea was not the northern peninsula of a southern continent. For more than two months the Spaniards sailed along the coast of New Guinea which they claimed for Philip III, fought with the natives, and captured some. On 22 May 1607 Torres reached Manila, where he disappears from history. The report of his voyage seems to have been filed and forgotten, and knowledge of it was not recovered until the British occupied Manila in 1762.

Select Bibliography

  • J. C. Beaglehole, The Exploration of the Pacific (Lond, 1947) and for bibliography, J. W. Forsyth, ‘Clio etwas gebuckt’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 49 (1964).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Torres, Luis Vaez de (?–?)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

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